Why Was Court's Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act Ever Secret In The First Place?

from the makes-no-sense dept

So, yesterday the FISA court (FISC) finally declassified one of its PATRIOT Act Section 215 orders to the telcos, demanding a full collection of every phone record. This revealed some of the secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act that some in Congress had been asking the administration to reveal for many years.

Here's the part I don't understand: why was this ever secret in the first place?

The FISC (and the NSA and its defenders) have continued to insist that the whole thing is completely reasonable and legal, and well within the confines of what's allowed by Section 215 (ignoring that the author of it claims he wrote it to prevent exactly this kind of data collection). If that's true, then why was it secret? If the FISC and the NSA and its defenders insist that the plain language of the law allowed exactly this kind of interpretation all along, why did they hide it and say it needed to be classified? Yes, there are some redacted bits in the declassified document, but that could have been done earlier.

Also, remember, this particular FISC ruling was written in July, well after the Snowden leaks had begun. You can kind of sense from the way it's written that the FISC was writing this not for its usual audience, but rather for the public that was going to read it soon enough. Even so, nothing in the reasoning that was declassified seems like it ever should have been classified in the first place, if those in the government (and the court) really believed that they were legit. The only reason I can see to have classified those decisions was because they knew that their interpretation of the law was suspect, and would likely lead to public outcry and potential legal challenges.


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  1.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 9:12am

    One thing I've learned in life...

    If you're doing something wrong and get caught, it's best to confess. You'll get into less trouble by admitting that you're doing something wrong rather than lying about it, trying to cover it up and then get found out later.

    Believe me, it ALWAYS makes it worse. Not just the punishment that will happen, but the fact that trust will be destroyed.

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Because... reason.

    Or better yet, to delay any attempt of pushing back the surveillance State as much as possible in the event it actually happened.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:56am

    So far we've learned that despite the prostrations of a sitting judge for the FISC it really was just as thought, a rubber stamp court. A secret court, making secret rulings, for a secret organization, to do secret things, with secret laws.

    That's not democracy. Nor is it even a proper court when court rulings can not be verified to actually have been done without the consent of the one being ruled over.

    This whole business is a sham and as crooked as a three card monte game. We the American public are expected to play the role of the mark. I don't accept that.

     

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  4.  
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    Michael, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:58am

    Why Was Court's Secret Interpretation Of The PATRIOT Act Ever Secret In The First Place?

    Unfortunately, the information you have requested is classified due to national security.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    SolkeshNaranek (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Too many secrets, too many lies

    With all of the lies told by everyone from the NSA, politicians, oversight committees, and the administration in general, does anyone else wonder if the documents they are releasing now are the ones they are really relying on and using to subvert the law?

    How can we trust anything these people say, do, or propose to do?

     

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  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 11:03am

    It's a giveaway, to put out and distract from far worse.

    Overall though, our public servants are trying to steal the country and don't want us to know what they're up to.

     

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  7.  
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    Michael, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 11:03am

    Re: One thing I've learned in life...

    Yes.

    This is a life lesson many of us learned sometime between the ages of three and four. It often involves an attempt to reassemble a broken item with glue and ends up with an explanation of why your hands are stuck together.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 11:10am

    holy cow

     

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  9.  
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    Andrew Holmberg, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 11:41am

    "If you got nothing to hide...

    what do you care if we read it." Isn't that the same logic of what they're doing to us? So why is it okay for them to hide "perfectly legal" activity?

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    The only reason I can see to have classified those decisions was because they knew that their interpretation of the law was suspect, and would likely lead to public outcry and potential legal challenges.


    You just answered your own question.

     

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    Darryl, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    Secret laws + ignorance of the law is no excuse == tread carefully

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    why was there a secret interpretation at all? by doing something like this, the government can basically arrest anyone they like for doing anything they choose to be classed as a crime whenever they decide someone has done something that is legal, but just not liked! therefore no one is ever going to know what is legal and what is not and when the change took place! how authoritarian is that? what sort of mockery does that make not just of the law but of the 'keep being picked to pieces' Constitution? you might just as well throw the law books etc away, and just throw everyone in jail for getting up in the morning! so much for the 'land of the free, home of the brave'!!

     

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    BS Simon (profile), Sep 18th, 2013 @ 2:55pm

    The first rule about Secret Spy Court is, Don't talk about Secret Spy Court.

    The second rule about Secret Spy Court is, Don't talk about Secret Spy Court.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 5:16pm

    It's secret because it's unconstitutional, and hidden behind a veil of National Security secrecy. All they need is an unlimited supply of stamping ink.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 7:26pm

    More power = more corruption

    Because power leads to corruption.

     

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    Wolfy, Sep 18th, 2013 @ 10:52pm

    In civil life, the only logical reason for obfuscation, or deception, is to hide wrong-doing.

     

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  17.  
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    Ronn, Sep 19th, 2013 @ 12:05am

    Secret Interpretation

    In a free society NO law should be interpreted privately by the government, organizations or persons. Any entity claiming they are allowed a private/secret interpretation of a law is already outside of the law and are probably guilty of conspiracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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